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Old 06-26-2016, 02:06 PM   #1
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Motorcycles economical?

Some who don't ride may not know this, but in general, for their weight and utility, motorcycles and even scooters get really poor mpg. It is not uncommon for a popular motorcycle in America to get worse mpg than a modern, thrifty, compact car. And even a mid-size bike or highway-capable scooter may achieve no better than upper 40s.

Two reasons as I see it. Number one, at highway speeds, powered two wheelers are terrible aerodynamically. And number two, much of the customer base in many markets place good mpg way down on the priority list and so manufacturers don't focus on making them fuel misers.

Honda is trying to change this to some degree, but with only mixed reviews, with a 670 cc parallel twin borrowed from Honda automotive, which provides more of a spirited sedan-like performance with more mid-range power, rather than high revving, high-end performance akin to the typical motorcycle. Just like a car, this engine, which is now in about six models globally, hits the rev limit far below a typical mc engine, at 6500 RPM.

Some think that scooters are really fuel stingy and that's true for the smaller scooters up to 150 cc in the city environment, but a motorcycle drive train is actually much more efficient than a scooters, especially a chain drive, at least for suburban and highway travel.

So I traded a 330 cc scooter for commuting that achieved upper 60s for mpg in an ideal, 60 mph daily commute that had a top speed of 86 and 33 horsepower, 21 peak pounds torque; for a Honda CTX700 that weighs 100 pounds more, at least ten more horses and 22 more peak torque foot pounds, and I'm achieving 76 so far for my daily commutes.

There is a small group of mostly Americans who take 250 cc motorcycles and streamline them, which was a concept first practiced and promoted by Craig Vetter. These guys can fix a good deal of the drag problem with their homemade modification of a streamlined body that also adds speed to their limited-powered bikes and they can get near 150 mpg. Now if Honda or some other OEM could also address the drag dilemma, combined with more efficient engines, motorcycles would indeed get good mpg for what they are. But it'd take a cultural shift to bring about these possibilities.
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Old 06-26-2016, 02:32 PM   #2
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I get what you're saying, I was surprised to see how many motorcycles get poor economy on here. But engine tech hasn't really been a priority for bikes, they are pretty basic and some of the clever tech that's been developed for cars is simply not applicable to bike engines. You could argue that bikes are mostly bought for performance reasons over economy, although alot of smaller 50cc bikes get superb mileage. If you compare a bike to a small diesel car, that seats 5 in comfort, safe, refined and comfortable and will still get 60/70+ MPG all day, well guess what gets my vote?

It will be interesting to see as energy usage switches from fossil fuels to electric to see how bikes will develop, I'm surprised the switch to electric hasn't been more forthcoming with bikes, given thier small dimensions and typical short journey likelihood, I would have thought the market would be flooded with electric propelled bikes sooner than cars. Less hurdles to overcome you would have thought?
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Old 06-26-2016, 02:44 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by gregsfc View Post
Some who don't ride may not know this, but in general, for their weight and utility, motorcycles and even scooters get really poor mpg. It is not uncommon for a popular motorcycle in America to get worse mpg than a modern, thrifty, compact car. And even a mid-size bike or highway-capable scooter may achieve no better than upper 40s.
I agree. Years ago, I use to zip around town on an 80cc, Honda scooter. Top speed was around 40mph, as I recall. But, for around town, that's all you need.

Being easily less than 1/10th the weight of the smallest car at the time (pre-Smart) AND 1/15th the engine displacement, you'd think the MPG would be off the charts. Not true. Despite those two huge advantages, I averaged a lousy 80 mpg.

Hopefully, someone that rides a sports bike or a hog can report their MPG.
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Old 06-26-2016, 02:49 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Draigflag View Post

It will be interesting to see as energy usage switches from fossil fuels to electric to see how bikes will develop, I'm surprised the switch to electric hasn't been more forthcoming with bikes, given thier small dimensions and typical short journey likelihood, I would have thought the market would be flooded with electric propelled bikes sooner than cars. Less hurdles to overcome you would have thought?
There's a LOT of activity with electric bicycles.

Harley was recently judging acceptance by showing off prototype electric motorcycle. I got the impression that "an electric Harley Davidson" is a contradiction in terms.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuhPZTrSmBw
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Old 06-26-2016, 03:44 PM   #5
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I have an assumption, but don't know for certain, that e-vehicles probably get somewhat exaggerated mpg ratings, especially for the highway rating, because one doesn't see quite the fall off from city to highway that one might expect. I'd also assume that highway range for real-world driving is less than the estimates. Even so, the highway estimate for the Zero model electric motorcycles are up in the upper 200s. Even if this is 100 mpg-e exaggerated, this is still amazing and should be all the rage.

One can tell alot about the PTW market by how Zero has marketed their e-motorcycles. If you go to their website, it is all about their performance. They're only in sport bike styling and the 280 mpg-e highway estimate is just shown in the specs as an afterthought.

Imagine if Zero had focused on mpg-e in the design.

BTW. These bikes start at $15K+ and they are comparable to a $7500 gas bike. Similar problem as the prospect of a diesel bike.
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Old 06-26-2016, 05:09 PM   #6
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Drag on bikes is awful. I think its a shame that my Ford Escape Hybrid, which is a 4wd SUV, doesn't get much less fuel economy than my Harley Dyna Super Glide.
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Old 06-27-2016, 07:13 AM   #7
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Yes, the drag is horrible, worse than a long haul tractor trailer. The tiny frontal area is the saving grace. Back during the Gassavers days, there was a thread on a converted electric bike that the owner added fairings too, and got a substancial improvement in range.

In general, electric bike ranges are low, because of the drag, and limited space for batteries.
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Old 06-27-2016, 07:47 AM   #8
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Back during the Gassavers days,
Did Fuelly.com use to be GasSavers.com? If so, why the name change?
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Old 06-27-2016, 10:38 AM   #9
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GasSavers.com was a separate forum. The current owners of Fuelly wanted to improve the forums. Instead of rebuilding the limited ones that were already part of Fuelly, they bought GasSavers and merged them.
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Old 06-27-2016, 04:57 PM   #10
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When we start talking about whether motorcycles are economical, we have to consider more than fuel. My Yamaha 250 Star, a 250 cc V-twin, has averaged 79 mpg for the 11000+ miles I have owned it. That isn't too shabby, and far exceeds the fuel mileage on larger bikes. But it also needed a rear tire at 5800 miles (not atypical for motorcycles) and will need both tires before much longer. Maintenance intervals are more frequent than for cars, calling for checking and maybe adjusting the valves every 4000 miles or so. Labor costs for bikes are just as high as for cars, and some tasks are labor intensive. Paying a shop to change a tire might run from $30 to $50, plus the tire. Motorcycle tires aren't usually cheap, either. As I figure it, yes I save fuel but no, I don't save money.
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